By TIM HORAN
One hundred years from now
It won’t matter
What kind of car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
How much money I had in the bank,
Nor what my clothes looked like
The world may be a little better
Because, I was important
In the life of a child.
—by Forest Witcraft
Kids and animals consume the life of Autumn Fox.
Combining the two earned the Abilene attorney an award recently.
“Children are my passion, and animals,” Fox said. “For me it is about influencing children at a young age. In the work that I do here, I think the younger the child, the more impact you have on their lives.”
Her work as an attorney, which is 90 percent high conflict custody cases many of which go to trial, pro bono work as a juvenile defense attorney, and her volunteer work with preschool children are all consistent with her passion and love for children.
She said that children, especially in this day and age, need mentors.
“Both in divorce and custody cases and in juvenile offense cases, in different ways, those children have no parameters,” Fox said. “It is as if we have become a society that the answer to everything the child wants is ‘yes.’ I don’t know how that happened. But children thrive on having parameters.
“I also think children instinctively know who they have to mind and who they don’t,” she said. “They are much, much brighter at an early age than we give them credit for.”
She said in custody cases, what is in the best interest of a child is the standard by which the court must rule.
“My definition of that is children must have parameters. They must mind,” Fox said. “Outside of that, they should get to be whoever they are going to be. As parents, I think it’s the parents’ job and responsibility to encourage and facilitate that. That is the definition of what is in the best interest of the child. Here are your parameters. You have to mind. Here are your rules but outside of that you get to be whoever you are going to be.
“I don’t ever meet the children of my client, nor should I, but I consider the children to be the client and their parents know that,” she added. “I am not the lawyer to come to if you want to beat up and slam the other parent.”
Fox points out that she has no children.
“You know that famous saying by Katharine Hepburn that you can’t do it all well?” she said. “I am convinced that if I had my own children, I could not work with the same passion for other people’s children, with the same veracity, with the same intensity. At least it would be very different.”
Fox was selected to receive free fuel through the Tanks of Thanks program from Cenex®. The program encourages people to nominate friends, family and neighbors for free fuel as a way to say thank you for doing good in the community. Each month, 100 nominees are randomly selected to receive free fuel from the Tanks of Thanks program. Fox was nominated for supporting children in her community. Fox uses both her horses and her dog to mentor local youth and visit area preschools. Earlier this month, Fox was selected to receive a $50 Tanks of Thanks gift card redeemable at any Cenex location.
Fox and Fleur are well known to downtown businesses and shoppers. Fox and Fleur can be seen walking downtown and going into stores.
“I think she is part of how I connect to the community,” Fox said.
Fleur also spends a half day at work in Fox’s downtown office. She recently moved to 325 Broadway.
“While people on the street are sometimes fearful of her because she is large, in the office I think she decreases some of the stress and anxiety my clients have when coming here,” Fox said of Fleur.
The program she gave at the St. Andrew preschool was two-fold. First she took Fleur to the school on what they call “F is for Fleur Day.”
“They were speaking about the responsibility of having pets,” Fox said. “She is a great ambassador for her breed. She laid down and children were petting her. It was her birthday and she eats from a fork. The children took turns feeding her. They put a birthday hat on her. And then we spoke about what sort of things you need to take care of an animal. They asked what is most important and my favorite answer was, ‘You have to love them.’ There are some children that don’t have dogs and we introduce them to a dog that would be safe for them.”
The next project was “H is for Horse Day” when the students visited her farm to pet and see her three horses.
Fox also hires troubled juveniles to work on her farm with her horses. She calls it “horse therapy.” She told the story of one juvenile, who was a victim of trauma, and how horse therapy was able to help that child.
“The boy was so unsure of himself and of his worth that a horse was telling him he had no authority and no confidence,” Fox said. “I think horses are mirrors to the emotions of humans and children, but certainly children. I am lucky enough to raise horses that are not a risk to those children when they don’t know what they are doing. They (horses) are very patient. It’s also about teaching them responsibility and having a good work ethic.”